Forward-looking: D-Wave Systems has announced that they will be providing Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) with a state-of-the-art 5,000-qubit quantum computer. This computer will allow LANL to solve problems that traditional computers just aren’t fast enough for.
LANL was originally created during the Second World War as part of the Manhattan Project to develop the first nuclear weapon. Currently, they conduct research in many scientific fields including renewable energy, medicine, and national security. These areas require vast amounts of computing resources to solve their types of problems.
This will be the third generation of quantum commuters that D-Wave has provided LANL. The previous iteration was a 2,000-qubit system for which LANL had developed over 60 applications. Irene Qualters, LANL associate director for simulation and computing, believes the new 5,000Q system will enable “new research into developing quantum algorithms and new tools.” She views quantum computing as a critical area of research for Los Alamos.
This new system, called “Advantage”, features more than twice the qubits and a new interconnect technology. This allows for higher performance and lower noise from the qubits.
Quantum computers present a different paradigm for computing. It’s not something you can install Windows on and play Crysis at 5 million FPS. Rather, they allow researchers to develop new algorithms and techniques that aren’t possible on current systems. The holy grail is to be able to break modern encryption, something infeasible on even the most powerful traditional systems.
If you’ve been following the latest industry news on quantum computers, the 5,000-qubit number should look a bit strange to you. IBM recently launched a system with 53-qubits and Google is developing a 72-qubit quantum computer. Although D-Wave’s system has about 100x the number of qubits, it doesn’t mean their system is 100x faster. They are using a technique called Quantum Annealing which is fundamentally different from the universal gate quantum computers of IBM and Google. They are designed to solve different types of problems, so any comparison between them is meaningless.